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Thursday, January 17, 2019

The plan was to take a morning walk with our dog before tackling another busy Saturday.

It ended up being a stroll into the future of gay rights in America.

We headed for Goodale Park in Columbus, Ohio, where dozens of booths were opening for day two of the 31st annual gay pride festival. It was a pinch-me moment as we took in some of the festival sponsors: AT&T, State Farm, Target, Macy’s, Bud Light, Battelle, AARP, Chase, New York Life, Red Roof Inn and Key, PNC and Huntington banks.

It doesn’t get more mainstream than that.

“Times have changed,” 48-year-old Karla Rothan told me. She’s a lifelong resident of Ohio and the executive director of Stonewall Columbus, which sponsors the annual event. She’s also gay. She and Linda Schuler, her partner of 16 years, have witnessed firsthand the many changes unfolding in Ohio — which is always a presidential battleground state.

“Corporations are more in tune with what diversity means for their companies,” Rothan said. “How do you attract and retain talent in Columbus? How do you keep (Ohio State University) students here in Columbus? Businesses have figured out that supporting the GLBT community deepens your leadership and increases the number of people willing to invest in your community.”

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